Eerste River learners under trees placed by WCED
Statement by Minister Debbie Schäfer, Minister of Education Western Cape
I am pleased to report that we have found school places for all the learners that have gathered under the trees in Forest Village.
The WCED has been contacting parents over the past week to make offers of placement. Half of the learners have already been placed at schools. The department is still struggling to contact some of the parents of the remaining learners, who have provided incorrect contact numbers or whose phones go to voicemail. We urge the parents of those learners to contact their district to take up the placement offers.
We are working hard to place the remaining learners in our province that are still not placed. This number has reduced from 13 800 at the beginning of the year to 4188. Obviously this remains a concern for us that they are still not in a school.
This is not because of a lack of planning or effort on the part of the WCED. We have warned for years of the pressure that we are under, and have not received the necessary funding to address it. We are nonetheless doing everything we can to try and accommodate the increase this year as best we can. We have been able to appoint some additional teachers in areas where demand for places is growing quickly, which allowed us to place over 1 000 learners in the past week.
As a result of our continuing struggle to place learners, we met with the Premier, the Provincial Minister of Finance and Provincial Treasury, to discuss urgent solutions. The WCED met with Treasury officials last week again to continue the discussion.
We had until recently been refused access to the details of learners occupying the Rosendal House property belonging to the Department of Higher Education and Training. Two weeks ago, the group finally granted us access to some information, but it is unfortunately not adequate to successfully place learners. We need proof of which grade they have passed, and the details of their previous school. After the SAHRC met with us about his matter, and asked how they could help, we wrote to them on 1 April to request their help in obtaining the full details of the learners.
Last week, we had a constructive and encouraging engagement with the Public Service Commission, which is also looking into the learner placement matter. The PSC recognised that we have a plan of action to address the immediate problem this year, and the serious long-term constraints the department is facing. We trust that they will investigate education issues across the country, including placement and funding constraints, with a view to making recommendations as to how these challenges can be addressed.
Our department has also been hard at work on the catch-up plan for those learners who have been placed late. Weekly lesson packs have been created for each learner, and schools have received additional funds for printing these. We are looking to include these learners in our autumn schools where necessary.
These efforts should result in the placement of all the remaining learners this year, but they will not solve the problem of underfunding. I again call on the various political leaders speaking about this issue to stand with us, and demand that education be prioritised by the National Treasury. We will not see a change to the situation unless we stand together, and rise above petty political point-scoring at the expense of our children’s futures.
Spokesperson to Minister Debbie Schäfer
Western Cape Ministry of Education